Game Night Review: Camp Grizzly
So…who wants to get brutally murdered at summer camp tonight?
This game night finds us taking a look at Ameritrash Games' Camp Grizzly, a game that takes its inspiration from the 80s slasher genre, especially the Friday the 13th franchise. It begs the question, if you obey the rules; don’t drink, don’t smoke and don’t fool around…will you make it out alive?
If our playthrough was any indication…probably not.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, let’s go over the basic set up. Camp Grizzly is a co-operative game for up to 6 players where each adopts the identity of a camp counselor…and yes, each counselor fits with the character stereotypes: the jock, the black guy (who doesn’t necessarily die first!), the loner, the slut, the spunky woodsy girl and the artistic girl. Otis, your stalker and soon to be murderer, answers the question of ‘what if Jason had been inspired by teddy bears instead of hockey?’ No single player dons the identity of Otis though…the game has built in mechanics to handle his movement and kills…determined mostly by cards players are forced to draw each time they enter into a new cabin or tiles they land on. The only action for Otis that’s determined outside of this is that he’s always drawn to the nearest counselor (barring any card or character effects). Winning doesn’t sound too hard…as all you have to do is find the components to unlock any of the four final escape scenarios (keys, gas, car battery and the like) either by cards in the game or tiles on the board. But like any horror movie, Otis lurks around every turn, popping up when you don’t expect him and, even worse, he grows more powerful the larger his body count grows. And that’s the other thing you have to keep in mind, you and your counselor friends aren’t the only ones here, there are scared little campers to be found too…some alive…some…not so much. The game also provides a ticking clock: once the body count reaches lucky number 13…that’s it, game over, you lose.
Now let’s dive deep into the games mechanics. Although dice are included, they’re surprisingly not for character movement. Movement for the counselors is determined by their health…starting off with a set number of spaces they can move but each time they get hurt, either by obstacle or by Otis himself, they lose a movement point…except for when they have just one hit point left. That’s when the adrenaline kicks in and movement points jump up! Each character has a panic value that dictates how far they can move away from Otis should they encounter him and are either unarmed or lose the fight. The dice are for fighting, as weapons you find will have different types of dice attached to them and those values will represent your attack. Then there’s Otis. Those dice also determine his attack value. As the body count goes up, the more likely Otis will be able to roll higher numbers. As you’d expect, the highest roll wins…but Otis wins all ties. If you defeat Otis, he disappears from the board until his next turn…when he re-emerges from the woods at the head of a random trail (determined by the 10-sided die). The increasing body count also improves Otis’ damage stats (how much damage you take if he wins) and his stalking (how many spaces he can move during his “turn”).
Otis isn’t the only game mechanic you have to worry about though, each time you land on a space that’s within a cabin, you have to draw a cabin card. Sure, cabin cards can contain some good effects: first aid for healing your character, weapons, and even stray campers. But let’s face it, cabin cards are generally against you and serve to remind you that yes, you’re DEFINITELY in a horror movie: a fog can limit mobility, keywords are introduced that you’ll learn to hate: disfigured, horrified and the dreaded fooling around (and we all know how that ends up!), more bodies can be found and…of course, Otis can strike! These cards can also introduce new characters into the game, called cameos, who of course bring on problems of their own: cops that take your weapons away, an obsessed detective that proves to do more harm than good, a self-serving boyfriend that takes items to save his own skin and leave the rest of you to perish. But it’s not all doom and gloom…should you and your fellow counselors avoid death and get the components needed to make one of four escapes…well, you know how horror movies go, you might be able to see the end credits from here, but there’s always time for one last kill! The escape cards all have two challenges on them for those who are left…and they can be just as much a pain in the ass as anything else you’ve encountered in the game. But succeed in these last two tasks…and you survive…this time.
And that’s the sheer joy of this game, it feels like a horror movie. Everything is stacked against you (except for tripping over your own feet while trying to navigate the woods, that’s your own damn fault!) and even with complete cooperation amongst the counselors (which isn’t mandatory, by the way, you CAN hose the others by gathering components and bolting all on your own!), not all of you…if any of you…are going to make it out alive. Plus, when you look over all the components, this game was made by fans of the genre. One of the cameos, Detective Haddon, should be VERY familiar to any Halloween fan. One of the campers, Angela…and her knife Mr. Stabby, should certainly take your mind back to Sleepaway Camp. On our playthrough, we fit the mold of an 80s slasher movie perfectly: two of us were killed off (the second one, me, with that resigned feeling that you’re just not gonna make it back to the others in time and sure enough…) one died during the escape…leaving, in our case quite literally, a final girl. Now, I’ll certainly echo what has been said by other reviewers of this game, while there is a card that does allow for a fallen comrade to return to the game…for the most part, once you die, that’s it. Unfortunately, if someone dies early in the game, you could have those poor souls just sitting there while everyone else is enjoying the game and trying to finish. Fortunately, this really didn’t happen in our group. Once the dying started…well, it was kinda like flicking over the first domino.
To go back to our opening question: do you want to get brutally murdered at a summer camp? With fun gameplay and tongue planted firmly in cheek in a game so obviously made by fans of the genre they are both sending up and paying homage to…if you love the 80s slasher genre, then the answer should be a resounding ‘YES’ to Camp Grizzly.
Big thanks to Chelsie and Tim for dying with me and to Stacey for joining the honored ranks of a horror movie Final Girl!